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Making Time For Family Meals

by Shawn Wilson

With the hectic lives most of us lead these days, it's becoming more and more difficult to come together as a family to have dinner. Yet it can be the best experience of the day! It's not just about eating, it's about ending the day surrounded by those you love and sharing your experiences of the day. It's about showing your family that you love them and provides an opportunity for parents and children alike to share ideas, unload problems and discuss solutions.

Having a sit down family meal every day can be challenging, but with some planning and effort, it's well worth it.

Involve your family in planning your mealtimes. You likely already keep a calendar that has everyone's activities for the week marked. You'll need to be flexible in scheduling family meal times, and may find that dinner at 8 suits you much better than dinner at 6. Pick the time of day that works best for you. I know several couples where one of the parents is a shift worker. They have their main family meal of the day at noon.

Make it a priority. Avoid scheduling appointments, shopping or workouts during meal time. It's up to you and your partner to show the rest of the family that this time is important. Of course if your teenager has an after school job, he or she may not always be able to join the rest of the family, but be encouraging about having them join you when they can.

Even a three year old can become involved in family meal time. Assign tasks to each member of the family such as setting the table, pouring the drinks, clearing the table, helping prepare dinner and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. If your children are older, try rotating the tasks so that everyone does their share over the course of the week.

Plan your meals. Always have plenty of vegetables, both fresh and frozen, on hand. In addition have sides such as rice and potatoes readily available. Plan your "meat" entree and try alternating between beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes. You'll avoid boredom at the same time ensuring a balanced diet.

Keep a shopping list in a handy location such as on the fridge on with your activity calendar. Attach a pen or pencil on a string so that you don't have to go hunting for one when you want to write something down. When you run out of something, put it on your shopping list right away,

As for shopping, try dividing it into threes. Shop for staples such as dried, canned and jarred goods and condiments monthly. Once a week replenish your dairy, cheese, eggs and other foods that need refrigeration and perishables such as fruit and fresh vegetables
twice a week.

When my children were still living at home, I had a monthly meal planner that I simply used over and over again. It was just a matter of printing out a new planner once every thirty days. I also had a shopping list attached of everything that I'd need to prepare those meals, and broke this down into the shopping schedule mentioned above.

It took some initial planning, but once that planning was out of the way, it was surprisingly easy, and did away with having to figure out what to have for dinner tonight!

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